Young people and enterprise: a risky business?

6 May 2014

Young people have many of the characteristics to be great entrepreneurs but are much less likely to be self-employed than older workers. That is the issue under examination by a new commission into young people and enterprise.

The National Youth Agency has teamed up with A4e to establish the inquiry and an independent panel of commissioners, chaired by former Minister Chloe Smith MP with cross-party support.

It will look at barriers that hold back young people’s success including fear of failure, finance and unemployment, and existing support mechanisms. The commissioners will also examine how we can encourage young people aged 16-24 years to develop key ‘enterprise skills’, such as resilience, tenacity and self-confidence, and how youth work can play a role in achieving this, as well as wider conclusions for skills, employment and value to society.

To launch the ‘call for evidence’ commissioners met with young people at the Think Big Hub in Shoreditch, London, to hear first hand their experience and views on starting their own business.

The commission is seeking insight and evidence from youth work and young people, businesses and employers from across public, voluntary, community organisations and enterprise. This will include evidence sessions held in Parliament, a national survey, case studies and local project visits with young people and business. The Commission will report by the end of the year.

Commission Chair, Chloe Smith MP said:

“Confidence and ambition are key characteristics for being a successful entrepreneur. Those are the same qualities we look for in young people to succeed in work and life, with skills gained that provide tangible benefits for the economy and active participation in a democratic society.

“The Commission will hear from young people, business leaders and youth workers on how we can support more young people to be enterprising and to consider starting their own businesses. We want to know where there are opportunities for closer links to be made with existing support networks.”

Fiona Blacke, Chief Executive of the National Youth Agency said:

“The principles that underpin youth work align well with values that contribute to successful enterprise, seeking to develop young people’s skills and attitudes, building confidence and promoting their active role in decision-making. By helping more young people to recognise and develop their enterprise skills, we can prepare them for whatever workplace they choose including starting their own business.”

Sally Orlopp, A4e Director for Enterprise said:

“A4e is delighted to be part of the Commission and its inquiry into young people and enterprise. We know that starting and running a business may appear a risky option, especially to young people without much experience of work. Despite specific initiatives for enterprise education in schools and colleges, too few young people have a firm intention to start a business, and even if they do many choose not to act upon their ambitions. Starting a business can be a successful route into sustainable employment. We hope that this Commission will help more young people know where to go for support.”


Call for evidence:

  • What young people know about enterprise and self employment, and where to go for support
  • How we can motivate and support young people for whom enterprise, starting and running a business may appear a risky option
  • The contribution of youth work to skills and benefits gained from enterprise to support young people’s confidence, aspiration, decision-making for participation in a democratic society



For details of the Commission’s work and submissions, email:

For media enquiries, Daisy Powell on


Notes to the editor:-


  • The National Youth Agency (NYA) is the national expert and development organisation in youth policy and youth work in England.
  • A4e runs is a leading public service provide involved in a large number of programmes which help young people who are unemployed to start their own businesses. Since 2011 A4e has launched more than 10,000 new businesses under the Work Programme and New Enterprise Allowance schemes.
  • Chloe Smith MP was elected MP for Norwich North in a by-election in 2009, and again at the General Election on 6th May 2010. Former Economic Secretary to the Treasury and Cabinet Office Minister, Chloe launch a campaign Norwich for Jobs which aims to halve youth unemployment within two years.
  • The Commission was launched with young people at the new Think Big Hub, Shoreditch, part of the Telefonica O2 social action programme run with the NYA, to enable and inspire young people to develop their own digital and work skills.


Commissioners’ Panel

  • Chloe Smith MP, Chair
  • Lord Mike Storey
  • Sally Orlopp, A4e Director for Enterprise
  • Michael Bracey, Assistant Director Education & Participation, Milton Keynes
  • Seyi Obakin, Centrepoint, Chief Executive and UKCES Skills Champion
  • James Adeleke, Generation Success, Managing Director
  • Graham Sykes, Fourteen19, Managing Director
  • Davina Tanner, Intu Chapelfield, General Manager